Arthritis Doesn’t Have to Mean It’s Time to Slow Down

New Expectations and New Advice for Today’s Arthritis Sufferers

If you or someone you care about is suffering from arthritis, you should know that arthritis doesn’t have to mean an end to an active lifestyle.  Prior generations may have accepted the condition as an inevitable part of aging and been given a standard prescription of bed rest and drug therapies.  However, today’s health care professionals recognize that appropriate exercise and nutrition are also critical to managing arthritis effectively, and they can recommend a much wider range of treatment options.  Your chiropractor can play an important role, not only in relieving pain, but also in helping patients with arthritis continue to live a more independent, active lifestyle.

Understanding Arthritis and its Lifestyle Effects

Arthritis is not really one medical condition.  Rather, it’s a more general term that refers to inflammation that may affect joints and other parts of the body as a result of more than 100 “rheumatic diseases”, such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.  These disorders destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues.  While arthritis is most often seen in middle aged and older adults, it can also afflict younger people.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 22% of American adults (about 50 million people) report having been diagnosed with arthritis.  Their symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints.

While the general public is aware that arthritis is painful, fewer people recognize just how severe and widespread the debilitating effects of arthritis actually are.  People with arthritis may experience difficulty with everyday tasks like buttoning shirts or opening packages and containers.  They may also find that arthritis limits their mobility.  This could prevent them from participating in their favorite activities or spending time with friends and family.  The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons issued a Bulletin in October 1999 that ranked arthritis as a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes.  More than ten years later, the CDC estimates that 21 million Americans face some type of disability as a result of arthritis.  These kinds of statistics suggest that strategies for managing arthritis need to address goals beyond pain relief if they are to be truly successful.

How Your Chiropractor Can Help

For many arthritis sufferers, treatment still begins with rest and medication.  But if you have arthritis, a chiropractic physician can help you develop a well-rounded, long-term approach to managing your arthritis in two other very important ways:

  • Designing an exercise program based on your own unique requirements.  Such a program usually focuses on a combination of goals, including (1) restoring any lost range of motion in your joints, (2) improving your flexibility and endurance, and (3) increasing your muscle tone and strength.   Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that inactivity can make joints affected by arthritis even more painful and stiff.  It can also have other negative health effects.   A properly designed and supervised exercise program can reduce these risks.
  • Suggesting dietary changes and/or nutritional supplements that may be effective in reducing or controlling inflammation in your joints.  Some research indicates that certain foods can have a role in either increasing or suppressing the body’s natural inflammatory response.  Making adjustments to your diet may reduce swelling, redness and pain related to arthritis.

Your chiropractor will help you make ongoing adjustments to both your exercise and nutrition programs based on your own progress so that you get the maximum health benefit with minimum discomfort and risk.

Communication is Key

Keep in mind that some types of physical activity and dietary supplements may actually do more harm than good depending on the specific nature of your arthritis, the joints involved and your current treatment plan.  So open communication with all the members of your healthcare team—including your chiropractor, family doctor and any specialists you’re working with—is the key to achieving results safely!

Both the symptoms and underlying causes of arthritis can vary a great deal by individual, so it is important that you consult your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and to put in place a treatment plan that’s right for you.

References

Prevalence of Doctor-Diagnosed Arthritis and Arthritis-Attributable Activity Limitation — United States, 2007—2009.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).  October 8, 2010.  Accessed August 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5939a1.htm?s_cid=mm5939a1_w

The Burden of Musculoskeletal Diseases in the United States.  Chapter 4: Arthritis and Related Conditions.  2010.  Accessed August 2011. http://www.boneandjointburden.org/pdfs/BMUS_chpt4_arthritis.pdf

Musculoskeletal Conditions in the United States.  American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.  1999.

Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness.  The Mayo Clinic.  Accessed August 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/AR00009

Research Spotlight:  Green Team May Help Protect Against Rheumatoid Arthritis.  National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Accessed August 2011. http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/120808.htm

Research Spotlight:  Pomegranate Extract May Be Helpful for Rheumatoid Arthritis.  National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Accessed August 2011. http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/120508.htm

Research Spotlight:  Turmeric and Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms.  National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  Accessed August 2011. http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/030106.htm

Arthritis: Dietary Dos and Don’ts.  Johns Hopkins Health Alert.  August 9, 2010 (Reviewed January 2011).  Accessed August 2011. http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/arthritis/JohnsHopkinsArthritisHealthAlert_3590-1.html